Is Dawkins Lying?

Consider what Tweety Dawk had to say about his recent “hate mail” video:

A “new batch?”

Jerry Coyne, a fellow activist in the movement, helps to promote the video like this:

Nobody reads hate mail as well as Richard Dawkins. You may have seen his famous reading of hate mail in 2010, which cracked me up. Now, four years later, he reads a new batch.

When I read these claims, I was under the impression that Dawkins would be reading a new batch of mail he received since his last reading. I was deceived.

According to DHay:

on a quick count of the “love letter” mails, and using a Google search for the origin of each, I find that of the seventeen mails, no fewer than eleven were from the Old Richard Dawkins (http://old.richarddawkins.net/letters/ugly) website and were sent before 20 August 2012.

Indeed. In fact, one of the readings is from an email I originally dealt with back in 2012.

It sure looks like Dawkins is lying in order to peddle this “hate mail” as a “new batch.” Why would he do that?

It would seem Dawkins is returning to the well to make a propagandistic point. This point was blurted out in the comments section of this blog by New Atheist clubschadenfreude , who wrote:

To complain that some are old seems to miss the point. The point is that Christians, who claim to love a loving god, to turn the other cheek, to be the meek who inherit the earth, are nothing like they and their fellows claim to be.

Indeed. I think it pretty clear that “the point” behind Dawkins activist activity here is to portray Christians as incredibly stupid, incredibily hateful, and incredibly hypocritical. Given that Dawkins abandons principles to make this propagandistic point, it should surprise no one he lied to help promote it.

Once we realize that a) there is no evidence to support Dawkins claim that most of those “hate mails” came “Religious Fundamentalists” and b) Dawkins is a biased activist with an agenda c) who lied to promote it and d) the likely point of it all is to smear Christians, what rational person would actually TRUST that video as is?

If you trust that video is as Dawkins says it is, then it means you are easily conned. But then, New Atheists have learned they can rely on the gullibility of their faithful fans.

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14 Responses to Is Dawkins Lying?

  1. McTaggart says:

    On different subject, Jerry Coyne is now promoting Nicolai Sennels. A new low.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/the-unctuous-and-dangerous-karen-armstrong/

  2. TFBW says:

    It’s a new batch in the sense that the batch (collection) is new, even if the bulk of the individual messages in the collection are years old. And it’s new in the sense that he has never done a reading of them before, right? Although it’s not unreasonable to expect that the contents of a “new” batch be somewhat new themselves, I don’t think “new” was intended to mislead in that way, and in the video itself, he refers to it only as a “second batch”. As such, I disagree with (c) in your conclusion, although (a), (b), and (d) still stand, and are sufficient to make your point.

    To me, the bigger question is, “what is it about New Atheists which make them so eager to share their nastiest hate-mail (obviously fake or not) with the rest of the world, relative to other groups who receive hate mail and keep it to themselves?” Or even relative to those people who receive hate mail and read it along with a snarky response? When Dawkins does it, he simply reads the thing as-is, complete with mispronunciations for misspellings, and leaves it at that.

    Clearly, clubschadenfreude has it right when she says that the point is to portray Christians as hateful hypocrites — not to mention moronic ones. And why do that? It’s a way to score cheap political points, I suppose, but the intended audience seems to be people who are already atheists; i.e. he’s preaching to the choir. Judging by the comments on YouTube, the choir is most uplifted by the presentation. For example, one Walter White said, “when an opponent has nothing but stupidity and name calling to offer, it’s a sign your ideas are correct and that’s very reassuring.” Analytical Atheist responded with, “the people he read were all trolls. I wonder what if he read the letters from the sincere christians concerned for his soul.” White responded, “he could, but for the purposes of this video that kind would be much less entertaining.”

    So a video like this warms the cockles of a New Atheist’s heart in several ways. The “Christians” effectively mock themselves, which is even better than mocking them yourself; it affirms the correctness of one’s ideas by reinforcing the perception that one’s opponents are all morons with “nothing but stupidity and name calling to offer” in opposition; and, more subtly, it provides moral validation by reassuring you that Christians (or at least a sizeable chunk of them) are supremely self-righteous and hateful to an extreme which basically means they are sick in the head, and any normal person (such as yourself) is less of a moral monster.

    Personally, I think that if you find this kind of thing entertaining and uplifting, you should probably engage in some introspection on the subject. A little schadenfreude is understandable, but taking unabashed delight in the anger, irrationality, or stupidity of one’s opponents is not a good sign. That applies to both atheists getting smug on Dawkins-style hate mail readings, and theists getting smug on YouTube clips of atheists having public melt-downs.

    I’ll grant you that Dawkins trying to say “biatch” in his academic English manner is pretty darn funny, though.

  3. Dhay says:

    If you follow the links in the previous post, you find PZ Meyers quoting a disillusioned woman atheist. She says:

    Why would women join a movement led by sexists and populated by trolls?

    I am personally quite sure that not all atheists are trolls, and especially not the non-vociferous majority; but here is an atheist who thinks that atheism as a movement is a movement populated by trolls.

    Meyers, who here uses her voice to speak what he wants to say, evidently agrees.

  4. Allallt says:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s from the old website. It only has to be post 2010 to be part of a new batch.

  5. Michael says:

    It’s a new batch in the sense that the batch (collection) is new, even if the bulk of the individual messages in the collection are years old. And it’s new in the sense that he has never done a reading of them before, right? Although it’s not unreasonable to expect that the contents of a “new” batch be somewhat new themselves, I don’t think “new” was intended to mislead in that way, and in the video itself, he refers to it only as a “second batch”. As such, I disagree with (c) in your conclusion, although (a), (b), and (d) still stand, and are sufficient to make your point.

    OKay, that makes sense. As I noted, I was under the impression that Dawkins would be reading a new batch of mail he received since his last reading. It would have been better if he had promoted this as “another batch” rather than a “new batch.”

  6. Ilíon says:

    “Is Dawkins Lying?”

    That’s easily answered by another question: “Is there noise coming out of his his mouth?”

  7. Kevin says:

    To be fair, sometimes when his mouth moves he isn’t lying. He’s just saying really stupid or illogical things.

  8. Dhay says:

    Personally, I like the quotation from Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra”, that, “Not only are they liars who speak contrary to their knowledge, yet more so they who speak contrary to their ignorance.”

    And there’s the rub: Richard Dawkins has not looked at and assessed the actual evidence, the mails; he is ignorant; I suspect that, because it serves his propaganda purposes well, he will continue to remain so. Nietzsche would, I think, call Dawkins a liar; I think, on the evidence of the latest video, I would certainly describe him as someone I wouldn’t want to buy a second-hand car from.

    But we don’t have to rely on the latest video to decide whether or not Dawkins is a liar: in the earlier video, at 1:44 Dawkins drops one alleged mailer’s name. It’s the one and only name he drops: “This one is from someone called Ann Coulter.” “This one…”, in context, is plainly, “This mail…”

    Dawkins knew full well that he had not had a mail of that wording from Coulter – the banner for each “Ugly” webpage states, In her latest book “Godless,” Ann Coulter writes “I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.” This section is dedicated to insanity such as this that finds its way to our inbox. When it goes beyond criticism and into Crazytown, we post it up here for all to see.” – so Dawkins was knowingly lying when he claimed his quotation from Coulter’s book was from a mail.

    Dawkins is definitely a liar.

  9. Dhay says:

    Allallt > It doesn’t matter if it’s from the old website. It only has to be post 2010 to be part of a new batch.

    I count four mails in the “new” second batch which are dated 04 May 2010, hence on one interpretation of your rather ambiguous claim, these four fail your criterion to count as “part of a new batch”.

    Let’s look at the other interpretation, that “to be part of a new batch” in your eyes they need to be dated on or after 01 January 2010 (ie post-2009). If so, all of the second batch of mails that were read out appear, at first glance and under your criterion, to be eligible “to be part of a new batch”.

    There’s not just four hate mails on the old website, there’s 40, 26 of which are dated 04 May 2010 but must have been received on unspecified earlier dates; how much earlier is what I’ll look at next, estimating the time span from their rate of arrival after 04 May 2010.

    If you look at the dates of the remaining 14, you will find a gap of nearly eight and a half months (253 days) from the put-on-website date to the next hate mail – which means the previous hate mail might reasonably be supposed to have arrived, say 253 days before 04 May 2010, making an estimate of about 500 days – or less – or more – quite plausible as the actual initial gap; the next one took a mere week, then there’s gaps of two months and four months before the next seven flood in at two a month; after that, the final three take six and a half months, two and a half month, and a week to arrive. There’s some very long gaps between hate mails, especially at the start, when just three arrive in the first year, and the long-term average from 04 May 2010 onwards seems to be just one hate mail every two months (60 days), six a year.

    Simple maths: the 26 represent over four years worth at the long-term average rate (or nearly nine years at the minimum initial average rate, or 17 years at a reasonably estimated – see above – initial average rate) and it’s a reasonable assumption that many of the old website hate mails arrived before the RDF was founded in 2006; I suspect they are every hate mail or hate letter Dawkins has received – has received ever, has received over several decades. And the four read out from the 26 will have been received in this same period of four years / nine years / several decades – pick your estimate according to how optimistic or realistic you are. To claim or imply that these four are “new”, is very much a deception.

    Now let’s project forwards: we can estimate that in the three-and-a-half years since 20 August 2012 there should have been 21 hate mails; not all of these will have been sneer-worthy enough for Dawkins to read out; we know that seven hate mails received after 20 August 2012 were read out; only seven (do correct me if I miscounted).

    The later video is twice as long as the earlier: I presume the ignorant and gullible are meant to simply assume from this that there’s recently been a flood of “new” mails in this – Dawkins’ words – “new batch”; anyone who does assume that is indeed ignorant and gullible, for the majority of the “new” hate mails are from the “old” hate mails on the old website; and at the known rate of arrival of hate mails in the 2010 to 2012 period, it looks like necessarily so.

  10. TFBW says:

    Is this an argument worth having? It seems to me that the relative vintage of the messages is a trivial issue compared to the question of whether they are genuine, or the New Atheist hate-mail equivalent of Piltdown Man.

  11. Dhay says:

    Hopefully I address those issues in responses to other posts. Here, I wish to emphasise that the alleged hate mails — irrespective of whether they are Poes or are as dubiously claimed genuinely sent in by fundamentalist Christians — these mails are coming in at a mere trickle.

    Thanks for your link to the archived 2006 “Ugly” web page, which I see contains five mails; by 04 May 2010 that had increased to 26 mails, so the pre-2010 average rate and the 2010-2012 average rate (ie up to the earlier Dawkins video) were very similar ie the mere trickle of a little less than one hate mail (or Poe mail) every two months.

  12. Michael says:

    Yes, I think that is significant given the way the media is trying to portray Dawkins as getting buried in hatemail. For example:

    Richard Dawkins’ staunchly atheist views on evolutionary biology have long angered the religious.

    In particular, his 2006 best seller The God Delusion, during which he argues that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that those who hold such beliefs in a personal god are fantasists.

    As such, he frequently receives hate mail. Mostly homophobic in nature (he’s actually married to Dr Who actress Lalla Ward) and littered with expletives.

    So he’s decided to read a selection of the finest aloud, and has posted the evidence on YouTube.

    I’m not sure someone who reads something like that would get the impression that many of those readings are “hatemails” from almost 10 years ago.

  13. Dhay says:

    The Guardian recently ran an article on Richard Dawkins, entitled “Is Richard Dawkins destroying his reputation? Is Richard Dawkins destroying his reputation?”, and sub-titled, “The scientist and bestselling writer has become the face of a new crusading atheism. But even his closest allies worry that his online provocations do more harm than good.”

    It includes passages such as …

    For some, his controversial positions have started to undermine both his reputation as a scientist and his own anti-religious crusade. Friends who vigorously defend both his cause and his character worry that Dawkins might be at risk of self-sabotage.

    … but also includes this section, which I want to comment on …

    Many of his recent statements – on subjects ranging from the lack of Nobel prize-winning Muslim scientists to the “immorality” of failing to abort a foetus with Down’s syndrome – have sparked outraged responses (some of which Dawkins read aloud on a recent YouTube video, which perhaps won him back a few friends).

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/09/is-richard-dawkins-destroying-his-reputation

    … and the online version links to and embeds the “Love letters to Richard Dawkins” YouTube video.

    The article’s implicit (almost explicit) claim – presumably originating with Dawkins himself, and without correction by Dawkins via either the combox or article edit addition, so it thereby becomes his own claim, too) is that the hate e-mails were in response to Dawkins’ “recent statements – on subjects ranging from the lack of Nobel prize-winning Muslim scientists to the “immorality” of failing to abort a foetus with Down’s syndrome.

    One of them, the infamous “fart of GOD” mail, dates back to February 2007 or earlier, and has been published in two versions: the original “ugly” mail version, which Dawkins reverted to in his latest video (https://web.archive.org/web/20070208044332/http://richarddawkins.net/theUgly) and the, er, creatively amended version which Dawkins read out to the Guardian in August 2008 (http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2008/aug/26/dawkinsemail). Evidently, Dawkins and/or his staff see nothing wrong with, er, creatively amending mail wording; they are happy to lie.

    Then there’s the frequency of mails: one would expect from “outraged responses” that there must have been a flood of them, yet my earlier calculations were that over the long term, as well as more recently, the average is but six a year.

    More importantly, as regards the Guardian’s (and Dawkins’) claim that the mails – even those few which definitely are recent – are in response to Dawkins’ “recent statements”, they’re not. Listen again, and tell me which are in response to eg “Dear Muslima, …”, which are in response to “the lack of Nobel prize-winning Muslim scientists”, and which are in response to “the “immorality” of failing to abort a foetus with Down’s syndrome”; try to identify an inflammatory tweet, or article quote, which any of the mails is a response to – I’ll answer that for you, you cannot.

    Dawkins’ mails are not responses, but abuse.

    I suppose some spotty teenagers who cannot be arsed to spray “Chaz woz ere”, or some sexual lewdness about a classmate, onto a subway wall, or to go smash up a bus stop again, for laughs, must get some sort of kick out of this mindless abuse.

    And I am sure that Richard Dawkins rejoices that his propaganda videos are accepted uncritically, at face value, as what he says they are. The lie lives on.

  14. Dhay says:

    Dhay > … the pre-2010 average rate and the 2010-2012 average rate (ie up to the earlier Dawkins video) were very similar ie the mere trickle of a little less than one hate mail (or Poe mail) every two months.

    Just to put Richard Dawkins’ mere trickle of hate mail (much of it actually Poe mail, by the look of it) in perspective, here’s a link to the “Page O’ Hate” on Rebecca Watson’s SkepChick blog, do take a look:

    Note from Rebecca Watson: this is a very small portion of the hate! I’ve blocked most of the haters and so these days I only see a small trickle of what gets thrown at me. This (so far) doesn’t include entire blogs devoted to me, videos people have made about me, or actual, credible threats that have been reported to authorities. I’ll update this post as I see fit, and if I have the time and the energy I’ll organize it. More likely, I’ll “hire” an intern to do it. Any volunteers??

    http://skepchick.org/page-o-hate/

    I don’t think she got her volunteers, because the page hasn’t been updated since September last year: but from this mere fraction “of what gets thrown at me”, it’s plain what a real flood of real hate mail can be like.

    This “small portion” of what was (is?) evidently a flood of hate mail was from atheists, was it not.

    But not all women have Watson’s gift for shrugging off online abuse. One activist, Melody Hensley, began receiving online abuse in January 2012, after months of speaking out against the harassment of women in the [atheist] movement online. Diagnosed that December with post-traumatic stress disorder, she has spent much of the time since bedridden. “I received death threats,” Hensley said. “I received rape threats. I received pictures of decapitated women and photos of women being raped.” For the first six months after her diagnosis, she lay in bed, at home in Washington, D.C., crying. “I had flashbacks of the horrible videos that were made about me over and over again,” she said. “I felt completely hopeless. The pain was unimaginable.”

    … also …

    in 2012, [Jen] McCreight wrote the “Atheism+” platform, which summarizes the case for a freethought movement that explicitly allies with liberal causes (“Atheists plus we care about social justice, Atheists plus we support women’s rights, Atheists plus we protest racism…”). After she published her manifesto, the mail got worse. She began to get “up in the morning and have 50 to a hundred emails or Twitter replies,” including from people who knew about her history with depression and told her to kill herself. “I had people sending me photos of bloody, mutilated penises,” McCreight said.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/markoppenheimer/will-misogyny-bring-down-the-atheist-movement

    This hate mail was from atheists, was it not. Christians are surely unlikely to try to suppress people who are criticising atheist male culture, to the extent of urging the critic towards suicide. For truly vitriolic nastiness, and in what looks like huge quantities, look to atheists.

    Dawkins has made much propaganda out of an average six-a-year trickle of what, eg:

    “Richard Dawkins, I hope you die of rabies.”
    “… your father’s sperm was wasted on you, you ugly person.”
    “… is a dick and needs to be killed in a plane crash or a flame thrower accident.”
    “I genuinely hope something bad happens to you. Like getting cancer or something.”

    … is pretty mild (and few, and laughably inane, too) compared with Watson’s hate mails, and very mild indeed compared to the murderous intent and (possibly or probably murderous) action of those atheist hate-mailers who urged McCreight to suicide.

    For truly vitriolic — murderous — nastiness, and in what looks like huge quantities, look at the hate mail atheists send to other atheists, especially to atheist women.

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